So far in the NBA season, Jimmy Butler has been amazing for the Chicago Bulls. With all the talk about how Derrick Rose’s fragile body, it might be easy to overlook that Butler is becoming something of an All-Star in this league. So far in this season, Butler might just be the most important player on the Chicago Bulls squad.
The man has always been the team’s best perimeter defender, but now that his offense has improved, he’s becoming a well-rounded player. Sure, fans were hurt when they had to say goodbye to Luol Deng; however, with Butler flourishing as he is, that wound is healing fast. Looking at his numbers, Butler is averaging 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game so far this season. Did I mention that he’s shooting 50 percent from the floor? Because he’s doing that too. He has the muscle to take care of giant forwards like LeBron James, and the speed to keep up with the quickness of Chris Paul and other speedy ballers. Of course, his defense has never been an issue.
What’s he added to his offensive bag? Well, Butler has a pretty effective pump fake, and intelligent off-the-ball movement. On top of that, he uses his speed and power to take it to the whole when he finds an opening, which also results in 7.1 free throw attempts per game, putting him at sixth in the league. Not too shabby indeed. He’s also resurrected the lost art of the mid-range jumper, which he’s been knocking down steadily so far.
Over this past summer, Butler went back home to train and work on his offense. Butler told ESPN that because of his focus on offense he’s gained confidence on that particular end of the floor this season. Practice makes you comfortable, and comfort leads to confidence.
“This summer I did work but I’m very, very confident in my game right now. I think it shows. I let my teammates know, I let my coaches know, I’m very, very comfortable. And my teammates are really on my side right now which damn sure helps.”
His teammates see the difference in his game, and so do his fans. Butler has been more aggressive, as well as more assertive with his offense, and his defensive intensity hasn’t dropped a bit. Rose has also been pushing him to be more aggressive, as well as work on his three ball. Even former teammate Luol Deng has commented on Butler’s rise from afar.
“He’s a hard worker. It also says a lot about his growth over the years and how he’s getting better each year. But it also says a lot about Thibs’ trust in him. He’s playing the minutes and he’s doing a good job of playing that role. He’s really finding his game. Sometimes in the NBA, you have to figure out how to play,” Deng told ESPN.
With Rose going in and out of the line-up, and Gasol also sustaining some injuries, it’s comforting to know that Butler has become a solid offensive option. If Rose continues to struggle staying healthy in a consistent manner, Butler might excel even more so than he has already. The only test for him now is consistency.
Butler is truly becoming the best version of himself in the NBA, and he’s becoming more important to the Bulls every day. Although it’s early, right now Butler seems to be the number one candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year. The new beast in the east is now off the chain.
Featured image courtesy of Shinya Suzuki/Flickr.